The first case of monkeypox, originally from Africa, was confirmed in Germany. As the Bundeswehr Institute for Microbiology announced on Friday in Munich, the virus was unequivocally detected in a patient on Thursday. The patient showed the characteristic skin changes.
Based on the large number of cases in other Western countries, Norbert Brockmeyer, President of the German STI Society, assumes that the virus has been circulating unnoticed for a while: “Who still thinks of smallpox today?” Because of the increased attention According to recent reports from Great Britain, a new awareness of infection and thus increased evidence can now be expected.
According to the co-founder of the “Walk in Ruhr” center for sexual health and medicine in Bochum, people who have sexual contact with many different people are most at risk. In principle, the virus can also be transmitted through close physical contact. In this respect, Brockmeyer also believes caution is advisable in the general population. “But there must be no hysteria. The monkeypox will be easy to control.”
Several agencies should now know about and be informed about monkeypox: HIV specialist practices, centers specializing in sexually transmitted diseases, the public health service and general practitioners. In addition, of course, there is also the general public, so that one thinks of this disease when unusual skin changes occur.
From a scientific point of view, it is important to check how contagious the virus is and whether it is a mutated, more contagious variant. “Unfortunately, we have a huge population in Germany that has not been vaccinated against smallpox – especially in the sexually active age,” said Brockmeyer. The potential for infections caused by the pathogen is therefore significantly greater than it was 20 years ago. Depending on further developments, smallpox vaccinations should be considered.
In view of the cases of monkeypox in several countries, some of which affect gay men, the German Aidshilfe warns against false conclusions and stigmatization. “Of course, there are superficial similarities between monkeypox and HIV back then – it’s another disease from Africa that also affects gay men. But the comparison doesn’t fit in many other respects,” said AIDS spokesman Holger Wicht of the German Press Agency.
In contrast to HIV, the virus that causes monkeypox was known longer in the 1980s, and the disease also healed on its own. “It is very important to us that panic and unreasonable fears do not arise here.” However, there are still uncertainties when assessing the severity of the disease: for example, how well immunocompromised people – this can include, for example, HIV-infected people who have not been treated for many years – cope with the disease.
After the experience with HIV, one fears the stigmatization of gay men and people from Africa, said Wicht. He also recalled the exclusions and finger pointing at the beginning of the Corona pandemic, which were directed against people from Asia – and against people who were perceived as Asian.
In this context, Tagesspiegel health editor Ingo Bach criticized the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which, like the British health authority UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), issued a warning to men who have sex with men,
Aidshilfe spokesman Wicht emphasized that the issue should be approached with reason and education rather than fear, as with other sexually transmitted infections. The target group is addressed and informed in coordination with the RKI. The Charité infectiologist Leif Sander described monkeypox on Twitter as less pathogenic than smallpox, but it was “nevertheless a serious and in some cases fatal disease”.
According to the British Health Security Agency, the first signs of monkeypox can be: fever, headache, muscle and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. A rash can develop, which often spreads to other parts of the body, starting from the face. The rash looks different depending on the phase and can resemble chickenpox and syphilis.
The disease is named monkeypox after the pathogen was first detected in monkeys in 1958. According to experts, monkeypox probably originated from rodents such as squirrels and rats. The virus then spread to monkeys and humans, for example by eating meat from infected animals. Transmission between people can happen through close contact, for example through body fluids.
The RKI gives the incubation period for monkeypox as seven to 21 days. Compared to human smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980, monkeypox would usually be much milder. Most sufferers would recover within a few weeks. However, severe courses can also occur in some of those affected.
There is a greater danger for children under the age of 16: According to observations, up to eleven percent of infected children died here. This observation relates to the Central African virus variant. The West African variant is apparently less contagious. The recently reported cases in Great Britain are assigned to the West African tribe.